40 things I have learned before turning 40

1. It’s scary, how much life depends on the labour and good wishes of others. This is not to say, shoes from the cobblers, wheat from the farmers or that sort of things. It took me quite a while to understand, that what I am today ascribes mostly to the extraordinary partiality shown to me by the parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, teachers, friends, girlfriends, employees and clients. Human beings are rarely impartial. One can lose a lot by antagonizing them.

2. Fear is the most basic instinct. Not sex. Fear may turn you on. Not vice versa.

3. The best choice would be to be born to money. Saving money is the distant second. Burning money to earn money, aka entrepreneurship, means you are the lab-rat for the local economy.

4. Play chess. Better still, play poker. That dry run sitting at the table, deals after deals, hiding impatience. That’s life. Nothing happens most of the time. Being cowed by the whale, being bluffed, while waiting for the Lady Luck to smile at a moment when the smug is unguarded, that’s an honest day of work.

5. Uncertainty is the problem. I will say, the queen of the problems. Will the clients pay? Will this post go viral? Will the lady I am eyeing come to bed with me? Nobody knows. Trust me, sometimes, even the lady doesn’t. Of course, finally, she will go one way or the other. And always, she will have so many ways to change her mind.

6. The secret to happiness is health, selfishness and foolishness. I have nothing to add to what Flaubert wrote except a nagging doubt how lasting that happiness would be. I would rather go for a second tier yet more durable happiness achieved with health, a sense of purpose, playfulness and intimacy.

7. The self-help books and essays helped the respective author the most. This will be no exception.

8. Nothing in life improves linearly. Elo rating, health, savings, reputation, nothing. Nothing in life goes down that way either.

9. Nobody surely knows what is happening inside the body, inside those infinitesimal chromosomes and protein molecules. Not yet. Getting exercise and having daily protein is the only option we have got.

10. If you are nice, you are predictable. If you speak your mind, you are threatening. If you are holding the string of the purse, a little bit of un-niceness is what is expected of you.

11. Read Alice Munro. Literature takes you there where psychology still doesn’t.

12. Do people let you complete a sentence and stop before commenting to ensure they have understood you perfectly? You are lucky!

13. As you are getting old, bitter, cynic and not as successful as you thought that you would be; the laugh and babble of a joyful child of two years old will be your only salvation. Not movies, not eating out, not even crossing valley tethered to a skinny rope.

14. Speaking about children, it’s slightly more joyful to borrow one than to raise one. You can always take him back to his mother the moment he is tired, hungry or ill behaved.

15. Reading voraciously has a fatal side effect. It makes you unnecessary confident about the way you are leading your life. Since, your life, it will seem to you, has already been corroborated by a few great men, you shall have no doubt, whatsoever, to continue with it. The antidote is to meet a large number of people and try to do business with them.

16. There is nothing wrong in scientific ways of doing things. Like building falsifiable hypothesis and testing them. Making a decision tree, assigning weights and probabilities. Except, who has the time and money and energy to do that? The scientific ways of doing things work well for one who is being paid comfortably at the end of every month. Otherwise, cheeky ideas and tenacity work pretty fine.

17. Society decides whether honesty is the best policy for you.

18. Is Elvis Presley the only one with Elvis Presley voice? Or his talent? Why is he still so insanely popular? You will hear intelligent arguments, never an answer to it.

19. We learn mostly by copying. It would definitely help to become a con artist if the father was one.

20. Talk through a large smile, move your palms energetically to pass on a large dose of enthusiasm to the audience, talk numbers fast enough to show that you know what you are talking about, fumble to look polite while using the pause to ensure that nothing controversial is being said. Guess, who are you imitating?

21. If tired of managing people, here are two golden words: incentives and the path of least resistance. Expect people to take the path of least resistance. Take notice of the incentives hidden in the system.

22. Many people will take you seriously just because you are chronicled on Hacker News.

23. You will surely get tired of your spouse. It’s a matter of time. But the alternative, jumping from bed to bed, relationship to relationship is financially and psychologically draining and doesn’t always go well with the advancement of a career.

24. If no one laughs at your joke, it means you ain’t popular. If one laughs at all your jokes, it says she is soft about you or has a favour to ask.

25. The world is not only a big place; it’s a big range place. Both Gandhi and Gary Ridgeway were born here. It is amazing to see both of them, no matter how opposite they were, did extremely well in what they set out to do.

26. 70 years is a long time. If I don’t do something by that time that I am proud of, I have wasted my life.

27. Feeling is, mostly, human brain setting priorities.

28. Have you ever met someone who has special insight about the movement of the stock market? You have? My guess is he is lying to you.

29. With friends will come jealous friends.

30. Loneliness is good for imagination, reading and clarity. Chess, writing and evaluating stocks are lonely activities. Too bad, it will also make you foolish and insular. Loneliness, in the long run, is injurious to health.

31. My deepest regret is higher physics and mathematics will remain beyond me. In this life, given my age, there is no cure for it.

32. When I read Whitman through the night and worry about the month’s sales quota in the morning, some guys on death rows are sleepless too. Some guys just have made costly contracts to murder others and some are planning ambush on the state military.

33. Love from majority will define success. Even if you had invented the Theory of General Relativity or had written the Macbeth.

34. Human beings are not born equal. Nor do they live as equals. Equality is a mighty concept that is necessary, though not true. We only become equal in death.

35. One could be a great military strategist and a very bad chess player.

36. Aren’t we lucky that Euclid, Louis Pasteur and Alexander Fleming were born before us? I will rather be myself in 2014 than being Akbar the Great in 1560.

37. Most probably, there is no God. That makes me believe that we, human beings, have to be more cautious and nice to each other.

38. Keeping a role model is a risky business. Have a look at my stream of role models: Ben Johnson, Diego Maradona, Lance Armstrong. Show me a perfect human being and I will show you a fraud and a silly.

39. Age makes you feel more useful than you actually are.

40. I will never know what I have learned are true or helpful. Yet, it didn’t stop me to type them furiously with one finger on an old iPad and then put them online with a wish that someone someday will actually benefit from them. I guess, it’s called the irony of hope.

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